Blackeyed Theatre Company have earned themselves a reputation for bringing classic stories to life but in a wholly fresh and accessible form and with their current production SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE WALLEY OF FEAR they don’t disappoint.

Although I say fresh, I felt they have paid homage to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original story and brought something to the New Theatre stage this week which is not only respectful to the source material but a true ‘classic‘ adaptation.

The story is everything you’d expect: A coded message received by Sherlock Holmes (LUKE BARTON) and Dr Watson (JOSEPH DERRINGTON) reveals that a murder has taken place in an old manor house in the Pennsylvanian Vermissa Valley within a secret society. In typical Holmes/Watson fashion they begin to unravel the clues, which take them down a path fraught with danger and deceit.

Joseph Derrington & Luke Barton, Sherlock Holmes, The Valley of Fear (Photo: Alex Harvey Brown)

Although we start in the familiar 221B Baker Street we follow the trail to the ancient American manor house and straight into the Valley of Fear.

One of the many things we love about this production is you get to work out the clues along with our heroes, and be in no doubt that Holmes and Watson are early day Superheroes. I couldn’t help but raise a little smile in the auditorium last night. I was thinking back to some of the great musicals which have graced the stage of late, and their interactive sing-a-long finale. And here we are, in our own way, solving-a-long a Sherlock. I loved it.

Incidentally, I would make a rubbish Detective, I didn’t work out any of the clues. But that’s what’s so great about the show, you really have to focus on the action and pick up every twist and turn of the story, which is beautifully played by Luke as Sherlock and Joseph as Watson.

This tour has been out on the road for 8 months now, with these final performances in Cardiff bringing the run to an end. You could really feel the chemistry between the two stars of the show. As we said in our interview with Luke yesterday (HERE), without Watson there’d be no Holmes. They are a proper mystery solving partnership.

Which brings me on to the company of players. There are 5 cast members on stage playing a total of 20 characters, so yes, you do need to concentrate, but each of them skilfully slip from role to role, with very little effort. Although I suspect that’s more down to their professional talents than anything else.

Luke also plays Baldwin with Joseph doubling as Eldon Stranger. BLAKE KUBENA is Jack McMurdo and White-Mason. GAVIN MOLLOY is Jack McGinty, McDonald and Barker. With ALICE OSMANSKI playing Ettie Shafter, Mrs Hudson and Ivy Douglas.

There is a fair bit of back story in this production which helps put the murder they’re trying to solve into place. A lot of this happens in the first half of the show but once we have the facts we can really get down to some puzzle-solving in the second act. Honestly, I really love that we in the audience were all trying to solve the case before Holmes did.

I do want to give credit to writer/director NICK LANE and Composer TRISTAN PARKES. The original music and songs are fantastic and the way they are integrated into the production, particularly to help us transition from one location to another, is really clever. The usual thing is to wheel in new elements of the set to move us around the story, Nick has done this with the use of song, which works really well.

If you were fortunate enough to see the Blackeyed production of The Sign of Four, this is the perfect follow up, although you don’t have to have seen one to enjoy the other. The cast are superb, the staging and costumes are perfect for a production such as this, and most importantly, the storytelling really hits the mark.

Let me give you a clue in closing, if you haven’t deduced it already. It’s no mystery that we really loved SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE VALLEY OF FEAR. Holmes and Watson are true crime-fighting heroes. The show will keep you gripped from start to finish with plenty of twists and turns along the way.

If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, you will love it, if you’re not, this is the perfect place to start. Get along to the New Theatre in Cardiff while you can however, the show has three more performances (at the time of writing) and that is it for this tour.

SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE VALLEY OF FEAR is on today and tomorrow (Friday). Performances are at 7:30pm with a 2:30pm matinee today (Thursday). For more details and tickets, go HERE.

And a reminder you can read our original show feature, and watch our interview with Luke HERE.

Incidentally, just for reference. Sherlock Holmes in fact never says the words ‘Elementary My Dear Watson‘ in any of Sir Arthur’s books.


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